Part of our mission and one of our core founding principles is to advocate for open data. In this article, we will inform you of changes at the federal level impacting open data and also ask you to engage with the DataRescue event at Yale University (see details below).
Initially the CT Data Collaborative focused on open data in Connecticut. However, we also recognize the importance of data collected by the federal government on the work we do here in Connecticut. The current presidential administration and members of Congress have taken some concerning steps that may set back progress in data collection and open data access for advocates at the state and federal level.
First, we would like inform you of two companion bills, one is the House and one in the Senate, with titles that refer to local zoning protections. However, both bills contain language that explicitly prohibits data collection that would allow us to disaggregate the data by race or ethnicity. Specifically Section 3 of both bills reads:
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be used to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing."
Researchers and advocates have long used information about race and ethnicity to understand the “social determinants of health,” that is, the relationship between your community, your family and your health and long term outcomes. This research and understanding is only made possible through the availability of data that includes the race and ethnicity of people and are released for the public.
Second, we see that dozens of datasets disappeared from open.whitehouse.gov last week, a website that Obama created to promote government transparency. The Obama White House began this effort in 2009 with the belief that the government’s data belongs to its citizens. In 2009, Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, stating, “Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use.” This set the stage for open data across the nation.
Clicking on 'Data Catalog' gives you this....
While the deletion of the data doesn’t mean new data won’t be posted, we are concerned since important public data are being created on a daily basis and we do not see a timeline indicating when it will be made available. The current presidential administration has not announced whether they will continue to collect and share the same kind of data available under the Obama administration. These data--like the White house visitor logs climate change data, or federal budget information--remain crucially important to understanding every facet of social life from the effects and influence of lobbying in Washington to how our tax dollars are spent.
Call To Action:
If you are interested in preserving federal data that exists and has not yet been removed, please join the Data Rescue that is happening at Yale University, March 4th from 9 am - 4pm (Programming skills are NOT required). To learn more about how you can get involved, go here. This Data Rescue event is part of a larger Data Refuge movement growing across the country. For more information, about the event go here and/or register here.
In addition to Data Rescue events, there are national calls to federal agencies about the data collection efforts already underway as well as upcoming data collection. The Association of Public Data Users is collecting signatures on a letter to Congress regarding the importance of open data access for users across the country. You can find the sign on letter here.
We will continue to keep our data allies informed about the ways we can support open data access here in Connecticut and across the country. You can join our monthly open data call to hear about ways to stay involved in this important effort!